• whatsapp

Supporting and safeguarding our arts and culture ecosystem

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister For Law, at the Launch of the Sustain the Arts (stART) Fund, at Victoria Theatre

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

  1. Good afternoon.  Thank you for joining us today at the launch of the Sustain the Arts Fund, or stART Fund.

    Power of the arts through the pandemic

  2. The arts are a critical aspect of our society.

    a. They can bring communities together, strengthen our national identity, and inspire everyone of us as individuals.
  3. Looking back at 2020 – a year ravaged by the pandemic, the arts nonetheless continued to provide comfort, inspiration and served to uplift all our spirits during these challenging times.

    a. Our artists were particularly resilient, tapping on their creative energies to adapt to the new circumstances.

    b. We saw them move very quickly, to introduce innovative projects and exciting digital content to connect with audiences, even as physical events came to a halt during the Circuit Breaker.
  4. The pandemic has also catalysed new partnerships and forged renewed camaraderie among the arts and culture community.

    Importance of patronage to sustain our arts organisations

  5. The Government is committed to supporting and safeguarding our arts and culture ecosystem. We have to sustain a vibrant and creative landscape so that all Singaporeans can benefit.

    a. Given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, MCCY introduced a $55 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package designed to sustain livelihoods, encourage the adoption of related or new skills and to facilitate digitalisation efforts.

    b. The package also supports the retention and the longer term development of talent, for this is the kind of talent that we must continue to nurture, encourage and protect, so that our sector can emerge stronger in the new normal.
  6. At MCCY and NAC, we have always taken a long-term view towards developing the arts in Singapore.

    a. This is why we have invested significantly in the sector over the past decades, arising from the 2012 Arts & Culture Strategic Review, and more recently Our SG Arts and Heritage Plans.

    b. We have sought to make the arts more accessible, deepen the talent pool in pursuit of excellence, and enable arts organisations to deliver a vibrant arts calendar with over 10,000 activities in 2018.

    c. We have grown audiences through working with arts groups, arts education, and broader advocacy efforts, and we have increased arts spaces by almost five-fold since 1985.

    d. Today, we have high quality cultural institutions in Singapore, with a vibrant and diverse ecosystem of arts groups and practitioners.

    e. We will continue to support and develop the arts sector, under the current strategies in Our SG Arts Plan.

    Strong partnerships for philanthropy

  7. While the Government remains committed to strengthening our arts ecosystem, we cannot do it alone. If we want to sustain a thriving arts ecosystem and ensure that it remains a bedrock of community, then, a strong and sustained partnership with the private and people sectors will be absolutely crucial.

    a. Since last year, MCCY and NAC have been studying ways to encourage art philanthropy in Singapore, particularly for the small arts groups to enhance their viability and sustainability in the long run.

    b. The diversity of ideas that smaller arts groups can bring to the table are vital to maintaining the vibrancy and diversity of our arts and culture ecosystem.

    c. But these smaller or emerging arts organisations may sometimes need more help in fundraising for their programmes, or to scale-up to attain Charity or Institute of Public Character (IPC), in order to produce quality work over the longer term.
  8. With this in mind, the stART Fund was introduced as a joint initiative by NAC and the private sector, to boost the long-term sustainability of small arts organisations and nurture a culture of giving to the arts.

    a. The stART Fund aims to catalyse giving, that will go towards these arts groups to support them, as they create quality programmes and developing their organisational and fundraising capabilities.

    b. Programmes with a strong community impact that enable more people to enjoy the arts, programmes with digitally enhanced arts experiences, as well as programmes to encourage reflection and celebration of Singapore’s cultural identity, will be supported by the Fund.

    c. The Fund also supports arts groups to help them to scale-up, and work towards Charity or IPC status.

    d. Together, these measures will help build not only a diverse  but also a self-sustaining arts ecosystem that can promote our sense of community and identity for generations to come.
  9. We would like to thank the donors who have partnered us in supporting arts organisations, especially during these challenging times.
  10. I would like to highlight four donors this afternoon:

    a. stART Fund’s Founding Donor, Tote Board, who has donated $2 million towards the stART Fund;

    b. Mr Danny Yong, another Founding Donor, who has pledged $1 million to support the stART Fund via Dymon Asia Emerging Artists Award and Yong Hon Kong Foundation Inclusive Arts Award; and

    c. stART Committee Chairman, Mr Pierre Lorinet, who has donated $250,000 towards the stART Fund under the Pierre Lorinet Arts Award as one of the Major Donors to the fund;

    d. We are also grateful for Temasek Foundation’s generosity, which has supported the outreach efforts of these organisations.
  11. The donations received has helped the stART Fund to have close to $4 million, inclusive of dollar-for-dollar funding from the Cultural Matching Fund. The stART Fund aims to build up to $10 million by March 2023.
  12. Through the funds raised, the stART Fund has already been able to support 12 arts groups in their programmes, for example; 

    a. 3Pumpkins Limited were able to engage children staying in low-income estates, using the arts to build a stronger sense of community and identity in these children.

    b. Contemporary arts institution, DECK, will be able to stage “Undescribed” for the sixth year, presenting works from recent graduates of local arts institutions.

    c. In addition, Apsaras Arts Ltd can also continue their residency programme for three Singaporean artists, and support 20 Singaporean dance students and dancers from less-privileged backgrounds, as part of this year’s Dance India-Asia Pacific.
  13. The Fund has also helped 14 art groups to scale-up and attain Charity or IPC status, including Reverberance Ltd, ArtsWok Collaborative Limited, and Paper Monkey Theatre Ltd.

    Upskilling our small arts organisations

  14. Beyond financial support, the Fund will also help beneficiaries in other non-financial ways, including to strengthen their own organisational capabilities in the areas of data collection, donor stewardship and fundraising. In short, supporting the arts groups to “learn how to fish” and remain sustainable, especially pertinent in the new normal.

    a. We will work with partners like the Centre for Non-Profit Leadership (CNPL), National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, as well as LASALLE College of the Arts, who are best placed to help to hone the organisational skills of the arts groups that need them the most. They can build up governance and other organisational strengths and grow more resilient over time.

    b. For example, in November 2020, close to 50 participants, including stART beneficiaries, attended “The stART to Stronger Governance” Webinar co-organised by the NAC and CNPL to share best practices and discuss challenges by arts groups in the area of governance.
  15. Through these capability development initiatives, we aim to build greater resilience in our arts organisations.


  16. 2020 has been an extraordinary year in many ways. The impact of COVID-19 has been wide and far reaching, not least for our arts groups. But we are beginning to see green shoots.
  17. In the arts and culture sector, we have been working to resume live performances progressively.

    a. With the commencement of Phase 3, we can now have performances with up to 250 audience members.

    b. Today, we will be enjoying a solo cello performance titled “A Musical Offering” by one of our stART beneficiaries, Mr Theophilus Tan, of Resound Collective.

    c. However, we recognise that even as arts venues begin to open up and live performances resume gradually, it would take some time for audiences to return in a sustainable manner.
  18. Hence, we call on partners and supporters to redouble efforts to bring the arts to everyone, the arts that help strengthen our bonds and inspire us to greater heights. Together, we can collectively foster an arts scene that generations of Singaporeans can continue to be proud of.
  19. Thank you. 
Last updated on 22 January 2021